This year the EB Expo combined two firsts for me: my first time attending an Expo and my first year experiencing it as an EB Games manager. Easily the biggest perk of the job gives nearly 500 of us the opportunity to attend the Expo in the preceding week as part of ongoing training. For four days we are reminded how we all have quite possibly the best job in the world (being Willy Wonka notwithstanding) as we sample and discuss upcoming products and game releases. We are also lucky enough to receive presentations from the most prolific developers and publishers, outlining every awesome piece of information you need to know this year.
As it was my first time, the word “presentation” filled me with about as much excitement as folding laundry. I presumed statistics and sale points would be in abundance from both Microsoft and Sony. Instead, both companies engaged the crowd with the power of nerdiness. Sure, awesome cars to drive the speaker 30m to the stage or an actual unicorn on stage make an impact of their own too, but what spoke the most was the excitement. It was impossible to ignore the overwhelming sense of nerd community: we were all hyped to hear about gaming and entertainment revolutions but not as hyped as they were to present them to us.
Having the empty exhibition hall free of the usual crowds gave us each ample opportunity to get hands-on time with every product on show. That, of course, included Sony’s VR display, which deserved best in the show: leagues ahead of Oculus Rift and available insanely soon at less than a year away. My other hardware favourites were the lightest Rigs ever that I can’t wait to get my hands on, and the Elite controller for Xbox One. My Halo 5 team came second (out of two teams), but in my defence I was distracted by the Elite controller Microsoft had set up – that D-pad is my new best friend! The PC peripherals game was strong too; Roccat, Logitech, Razor and TT were among the presenters with the next best mice and keyboards coming to EB. Whatever your platform and gamer status, the Expo has everything you need to see and feel before making any decisions on your next kit.
It’s no secret I fangirl after Ubisoft pretty hard, but I have to say the team that was manning the Ubi station were very understanding. The 6 minutes I had to demo Syndicate as Jacob was promising and resulted in me high-fiving and engaging in an excited ramble with the receptive Ubisoft team. The next five minute blocks were just as brilliant: a five a side match in Rainbow Six and three teams of three in The Division. The Ubi team were again very forgiving when I may have yelled on comms to my teammate, and Rainbow Six developer, to ‘move his f**ken shield and squat!’ The booths that performed the best and became the most memorable all had the same thing in common; they dropped the sales barriers and connected with us individually. Almost every single vendor stopped to answer questions, or ask opinions and listen keenly to feedback which is nothing but a boost to the community of nerds who live to sell to more nerds.
The booths with the most excitement were undoubtedly CoD, SW Battlefront and a little game called Fallout 4. Bethesda had a teasing display of the sought-after Pipboy and some in-game footage with a crafting system that makes Skyrim’s crafting look like fun with play dough. The rows of machines set up for an intense CoD BLOPS 3 match turned into an impressive display of people who clearly play often, and people, like myself, who suck at it. Regardless, it looked and played well enough to add to the CoD fan’s anticipation, and encourage a few of us who were weary of CoD. SW Battlefront in Sony’s area enlisted 40 screens in four standing rows; enough for a 20 a side match played out on Hoth. I was so apprehensive to play this, but it was worth waiting for all week. It was the best and most accurate multiplayer I have played in memory, and it was a satisfying win for the rebels that afternoon! If you’re going to the expo, the lines are worth it.
While EB graciously arranges the time with the vendors for us to be better at our jobs, I still can’t help being endlessly grateful. Send me to a giant room of gaming geniuses who want nothing more than to present their babies proudly, and I’m in heaven. The developers and publishers had such respect for us all as fans, with an eagerness to share and educate so that the industry might continue being such a massive part of so many lives. If you can, take the opportunity to have some hands-on time with games that have been overshadowed by the larger releases; Tomb Raider and Battleborn were worth sneaking back during breaks to play again, for starters. A huge thank you to all the higher up nerds who put things like this together for us, and to every vendor who took my frequent excited squeals with good humour. See you all next year!